The lockdown, now mutated to “blackout,” that started from Sunday comes with a sense of déjà vu even if it is for 72 hours. We were in the longest lockdown this time last year, and with the Omicron variant detected in more than three places, the concern is heightened.
The Omicron variant of the SARS- CoV 2 is known to be highly infectious. We have recorded the highest number of cases, 141 in the last 24 hours. In terms of number, it is way higher than the 377 positive cases we recorded in the past during the longest lockdown.
At the same time, there is a growing narrative that it is a milder and a less deadly virus. With strict measures in place to prevent an outbreak, even the milder version could be contained. In addressing the nation last night, the Prime Minister was consoling and comforting the people knowing the details of the virus and the efforts that are put in place. He also reminded the people that the basic practices are still the proven best defence against the virus.
Going by the strict preventive measures, ours is a zero-Covid policy. This is evident from the prevention and reaction strategy. One case in the community can trigger a blackout – in a place or a region.
The concern arises from the fact that our best approach so far may have been breached. The Punatsangchhu project was allowed to quarantine its “imported” workers in its facilities. The rest were not. The consolation is that most of the cases are detected from areas that were functioning in a containment mode at Rurichhu. Out of the 141 that tested positive, 108 are from the project area, which is now cordoned off and strictly monitored.
While it comes as a consolation, some Bhutanese contractors are questioning why the project was allowed to quarantine workers at the project site when they had to follow the rules. The sheer number needed to meet the project deadline and the shortage of quarantine facility and cost must have convinced authorities. But the question now is, were they monitored like the other quarantine facilities?
The rising positive cases from a project that is already under public scrutiny comes at an unfortunate time. Omicron was spreading like a wildfire all over the world and the flames were bound to consume those not prepared or were ignorant. How it happened despite the relentless effort to prevent it is the big question.
The reality, however, is that we have to live with the virus. Coronavirus, experts say, does not disappear but instead circulates alongside other respiratory viruses like the common flu. International evidence also indicates that vaccines, especially boosters, remain substantial sources of protection against hospitalisations caused by Omicron.
We are in a better position with 80 percent of the population vaccinates and the booster round already rolled out. Soon, children will be inoculated.
At the moment, what we can do is follow the basic, yet the most important preventive measures. How much does it cost to wear a face mask? What is the loss in not gathering or not washing hands frequently. There are some simple ways to get over with the virus even if it is mutating. Basic preventive measures still remain the best defence.